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A friend of mine has a big black dog named Nan. Nan is part Australian shepherd, and the herding instinct is so strong in her that it's almost as if she has a doggie form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nan desperately needs a couple of sheep to keep her busy during the day, but sadly she's not likely to get any in her suburban home. Nan will try to herd anything; a favorite pasttime of the kids in the house on a hot summer day is to throw a handful of ice cubes across the slick kitchen floor and watch Nan round them all up by her water bowl. If you are a new visitor to the house, you can expect her to circle you, barking and prodding you with her sharp nose if she thinks you need to be elsewhere.

Yes, Nan is a bossy, bossy bitch.

My friend set up an invisible fence in their big front yard so that Nan doesn't have to be tied up during the day. For a long time, Nan didn't make the connection between getting shocked and wearing her collar; she just thought she'd get zapped anytime she went out of bounds, so after a while, Nan automatically stayed put, didn't even go after bunnies or squirrels or the mailman.

But then a new family moved into the house next door, and with them came a pride of four young, impertinent cats. The cats figured out the invisible fence pretty quickly, so they'd tease poor Nan by sitting just beyond the electrical border. Stretching and cat-smiling, preening and tail-waving. Neener, neener, can't get us ....

Then, one afternoon after a walk, Nan made the connection between her collar and the zap. The four cats had assembled for their evening taunting, and it finally dawned on her doggie brain that she wasn't wearing her collar and could get those darned cats!

After about thirty seconds of barking, cat-squalling mayhem that surely caused a few pacemakers in the neighborhood to kick into overtime, we ran out onto the porch to find two hissing, enraged, unharmed cats up on the rattan loveseat. Nan was dancing below, barking joyously. Look, ma! I brought you cats!

So, you can herd cats if you're as energetic and determined as Nan.

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